Everything you need to know about being a transfer student



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If you have been accepted into UBC’s Bachelor of Arts program as a transfer student from another post-secondary institution, you might be wondering how courses you have completed previously will apply to your degree. Arts Academic Advisor Khalid Ahmed shares his advice to help you make confident course planning decisions when you have university-level transfer credits.


In order to earn your Bachelor of Arts, you must complete a minimum of 120 credits, 50% of which must be completed while registered as a student in the Faculty of Arts. A maximum of 60 transfer credits from previous studies can be applied to your Arts degree.

So, as a transfer student, you need to complete at least 60 credits while at UBC, through on-campus classes, UBC Distance Learning courses, or on Go Global exchange.


Tips for your first year at UBC

Transitioning from one institution to another is sometimes overwhelming and challenging as academic systems can be different from one institution to another. With this in mind, I recommend you register for a manageable course load in your first term at UBC.

What is “manageable” will vary depending on your personal circumstances. A maximum, 100% full-time course load is 15 credits per term, but all you need is a minimum of 9 credits (3 courses) per term to maintain full-time status.

Also, as you are entering UBC as a second- or third-year student, consider looking into involvement opportunities and experiential learning options, as these can enhance your learning and give you valuable experience towards a career.


Should I declare a major before registration?

All Bachelor of Arts students need to complete a Major, Honours, or Interdisciplinary Studies Program in order to graduate.

If you are entering UBC as a third-year transfer student, you must declare or apply for your major or honours program before you can register for Winter Session courses. Second-year transfer students do not have to do this until they reach third-year status at UBC.

It is important to register for the full year of courses during your assigned registration period, because courses can fill up quickly. You can make changes to your registration up until the add/drop deadline.


How do I choose a major?

There are more than 90 program options available to Bachelor of Arts students. If you’re having trouble choosing a major, speak with an Arts Academic Advisor for guidance.

Some Arts programs are competitive and require an application, while others can be declared through the Student Service Centre (SSC). You’ll be able to tell if a program requires an application by looking at its description in the Program Options list. Competitive programs say “application required”beside “how to apply.”


What happens if I don’t get into the major I want or miss the deadline for application?

Even if you arrive at UBC with your major decided, consider researching one or two other majors, as alternative or “parallel” plans. The process of parallel planning will help you identify topics of interest that will fulfill your elective requirements and potentially lead to a minor or a second major.

If you miss a deadline for an application-based competitive major, select a different major temporarily and then contact the application-based major about applying to the program.


Where do I find my post-secondary transfer credits?

UBC Admissions will review your official transcripts from other institutions and post your transfer credits to your Student Service Centre (SSC) profile. To view them, log into the SSC, select the “Grades & Records” tab, “Transfer Credit,” and “UBC Vancouver” as the campus location.

Transfer credits may not appear on the SSC until you’ve accepted your offer. To get an idea of how your previously completed courses may transfer to UBC before they are officially posted, use UBC’s Transfer Credit Search Tool.

You’ll also be able to see how transfer credits apply to your degree completion by using Degree Navigator. I’ll explain Degree Navigator more later in this blog!


What’s the difference between General and Specific Transfer Credit?

General Credit means that the course has no UBC equivalent. You’ll know when you have a General credit as it will not be written with a specific UBC course code. General credits look like this in the SSC or Degree Navigator: “ENG 1st” or “PSYC 2nd.” General Credits can be applied towards elective courses to fulfill the Arts outside credit requirement, but do not usually automatically apply towards Faculty-wide requirements or program requirements.

If you feel that the course you completed elsewhere is similar to a required UBC course for a particular program (major, minor, or honours), take the syllabus from your completed course to the corresponding department at UBC to inquire if you can use the credit in place of the UBC course.

If you feel that the general credit should apply towards a specific Faculty-wide requirement, speak with an Arts Advisor.

Specific Credit means the course has a direct equivalent at UBC and you can take a subsequent, more advanced course in the subject area. Specific Credits can be used towards program (Honours, Major, Minor) or Faculty-wide degree requirements, or as electives to fulfill the Arts outside credit requirement. Specific credits are notated with a UBC course code in the SSC and Degree Navigator. For example, if you took the equivalent of the UBC Arts Writing Requirement course elsewhere, UBC will write the course as “WRDS 150.”


How do I course plan with transfer credits?

The best way to see how transfer credits apply towards your degree completion is to review your personalized Degree Navigator report. Completed Transfer Credit courses will be marked with a “TR” in your report.

Check program requirements with Degree Navigator

Watch this video to learn how to find your Honours, major, or minor program report in Degree Navigator. Your report will tell you what transfer credit courses (if any) apply to the program, as well as which courses you need to take at UBC to complete your program.

Check degree requirements with Degree Navigator

Some Faculty-wide degree requirements, such as the Writing, Language, Science, and Literature Requirements, may be fulfilled through your transfer credits, so carefully review your report before your registration day.

If there is a check mark by the “Writing component” in your Degree Navigator report, it means your transfer credit has fulfilled it. If you are a third-year transfer student and your transfer credit has not fulfilled the requirement, I would recommend registering in WRDS 350 in your first term because it also counts as an upper-level course. If you are a second year transfer student and your transfer credit has not fulfilled the requirement, you should take WRDS 150A or English 100. You can also double check the Writing Component through the SSC: if your transfer credit is listed as “ENG 1st” or “WRCM 1st”, you have not fulfilled the requirement. If your transfer credit is listed as “WRDS 150”, you have fulfilled it.

If the Language Requirement is not checked in your Degree Navigator report, you’ll need to research a way to satisfy the requirement. Review your options here.

If the Science or Literature Requirements are not checked in your Degree Navigator report, you’ll need to take courses to satisfy these requirements before you graduate.

All transfer students will have to fulfill the Research Component of the Writing and Research Requirement as it is part of your major.

There are three more requirements to be aware of as you work towards your degree completion, these include:

  • Arts Credit Minimum: You must take a minimum of 72 credits of courses offered by the Faculty of Arts. See details and exceptions.
  • Upper-Level Requirement: You must complete a minimum number of upper-level credits (courses numbered 300 and above). The number of upper-level credits varies according to whether you are doing a Major or Honours program, or a Double Major or Double Honours program. See details.
  • Outside Requirement: You must complete a minimum number of credits outside the field of study of your Honours, Major or IDST program. See details.

I already have an undergraduate degree. Will I be able to use transfer credit towards my Arts degree?

Transfer credits do not apply to second degrees. If you have a prior degree, you should contact Arts Advising so we can determine if some Faculty requirements can be waived depending on which courses you took in your first degree. The Research Component is mandatory for all second degree students.


Still need help with understanding transfer credit? Consider booking an appointment with an Arts Advisor.


Khalid Ahmed

Khalid Ahmed graduated from SOAS University of London with an MSc in Globalisation and Development. He has been an Arts Academic Advisor since 2020 and enjoys helping students explore a holistic university experience.